How Women are Portrayed by the Media


I often consider why I would run for political office when the media focuses on a woman’s looks above her ideas and intelligence. 

In March 2008, during Hillary Clinton’s first presidential bid, The Guardian begged the question: “She’s hoping to become the most powerful women in the world – so why does Hillary Clinton wear such uninspiring clothes?” How often has something similar been said about a male candidate’s wardrobe?

Similarly, on December 2, 2010, Clinton, when asked by a moderator in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan which fashion designers she prefers. Clinton responded: “Would you ever ask a man that question?”

But right-wing media personalities persist, viewing female politicians as fashion entities rather than serious leaders. Glenn Beck, conservative-leaning founder of The Blaze, said on his radio show that “Sarah Palin looks really hot in that hat.”

By the same token, Michael Savage, author of Liberalism is a Mental Disorder and among America’s leading conservative radio hosts, commented about the appearance of Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan, saying, “Let’s put it this way, she’s not the type of face you’d want to see on a $5 bill.” The objectification of female political candidates degrades and reduces an individual’s worth, while drawing attention away from what is really important in politics.

Lee Rodgers, host of The Lee Rogers radio show in San Francisco, even went so far to say, “Look at these ugly skanks who make up the female leadership of the Democratic Party.”

Additionally, the unfair questioning plays into behavioral stereotypes that women are bossy, bitchy and cold. Marc Rudov from Fox News stated, “Men won’t vote for Hillary Clinton because she reminds them of their nagging wives.” He went on to say, “When Barack Obama speaks, men hear, ‘Take off for the future.‘ And when Hillary Clinton speaks, men hear, ‘Take out the garbage.’”

Comparing Clinton to a nagging wife unjustly degrades her public service experience, while reinforcing negative stereotypes about all women in or seeking positions of power. In reality, a female running for office sends an invaluable message that women can be successful in politics—and life. But why does the right-wing media insist on reinforcing the opposite message?

The answer stems from the fact that on a larger scale, women only entered positions of power about 25 years ago. Even now, however, while women make up 51 percent of the population, they hold only 19.4 percent of Congressional seats, and just three percent of executive positions in mainstream media companies.

Is the media purposefully undermining or trivializing female candidates? Maybe the media is unaware of its offenses, which would be an even bigger problem. It is difficult to know. Ether way, change must happen.